Omega-3s

Health conditions that end in –itis indicate an inflammation in that area. For example, gastritis is inflammation of the stomach. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints.

Depending on the severity, arthritis could occur in only a few joints—such as your fingers or knees—or in many joints. A dull, stiff, achy feeling indicates swelling and inflammation in that area. Anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin or ibuprofen can decrease the swelling, while acetaminophen can help decrease the pain.

However, you may take a more natural route to reducing inflammation by including foods in your diet that contain a type of healthy fat called omega-3 fatty acids.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of healthy fat that you can only get through your diet—your body can’t produce the nutrient on its own. You may have heard of this good fat in health news over the past few years.

But why are omega-3s so great for arthritis? They may help reduce inflammation in your body, including inflammation caused by arthritis. 

What Foods Contain Omega-3s?

A common suggestion for a good source of omega-3s is salmon. While this is true, other types of fish are great sources as well, including:

  • sardines
  • anchovies
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • halibut
  • mackerel

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating 3.5-ounce servings of these fatty fish at least two times per week (AHA, 2010). If you want to get serious about your omega-3s, 100 percent grass-fed beef contains a higher amount than cattle that is grain-fed.

If you’re a vegetarian, don’t fret. You can get omega-3s in plant form too. However, your body doesn’t use it as well as it does animal-sourced omega-3s, so make sure you eat these on a regular basis:

  • walnuts
  • ground flaxseed or flax oil
  • canola oil
  • algae
  • kale (and other dark, leafy greens).

If you think your diet may be insufficient in omega-3s, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about a supplement. Omnivores or pescatarians could opt for a fish oil supplement, while vegetarians would want an algae-based omega-3 supplement.